There is broad consensus that a threshold for an allowable — and unavoidable — amount of GMOs in organic and other non-GMO produced food is a necessary accommodation. The U.S.-based Non-GMO Project and European countries set this threshold at 0.9 percent. The USDA and FDA should adopt this threshold and move forward expeditiously.
An organic GMO-free label would also help consumers distinguish organic food from food labeled as “natural.” Natural foods are eroding the organic market space, despite the lack of any clear-cut standard for what the term means or federal oversight. Allowing organic products to be labeled GMO-free would provide a clear distinction between the terms “organic” and “natural.”
Mandatory GMO labeling of all food will continue to arouse passions on both sides of the issue. Though it may not satisfy all GMO-labeling advocates nor be welcomed by all leaders in the biotechnology industry, allowing a GMO-free organic label provides more choice in the marketplace and responds to the demands of millions of American consumers in a practical and common-sense way.
Dan Glickman, a former congressman, was secretary of agriculture from 1995 to 2001. He is executive director of the Aspen Institute Congressional Program. Kathleen Merrigan, now a consultant, was deputy secretary of agriculture from 2009 to 2013. Among her clients is a large organic-farming cooperative. They wrote this for the Los Angeles Times.